Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Snakes and Naked Ladies

No this is not an entry about a biker bar/strip club or anything like that. I have Milton on the brain.

For my British Literature class, the last lit survey class I will take in undergrad, I would like to write about Paradise Lost for my term paper. It's a major work, the kind that has entire semester-long courses dedicated to it (which I never took), and a significant number of scholars are strangely devoted to studying just this poem, above all the other works they might enjoy. So it would be good if I had a nice handle on such a volume.

Like many young women who read PL, I'm interested in Eve's role in the fall. But I'm not concerned with it in the context of religious views and how they've marginalized women, the history of androcentrism, etc. There was much discussion of this in class, and while I enjoyed that discussion, I have the tendency to take it in the direction of a theological argument. Any chance my brain gets to start mulling over the free will paradox, it reduces the argument to that and runs with it. And this is not a philosophy of religion course. (Similarly my brain reduces any social question to "goddamn capitalism!" and runs just as quickly into the arms of Marx.)

For this paper I am concerned with Milton, and his particular views on women, and how those views work their way into the text. I read in several sources, most notably Virginia Woolf, that Milton was something of a misogynist. Woolf repeatedly refers to his "fear" of women, which is an interesting angle on misogyny. So what's his deal? That's what I want to know.

I may also end up being concerned with the sixteenth century literary device of woman-blame, and this may eclipse my more biographical treatment. Eve's role in the fall points to the laying of a very large and stinking package of blame in the laps of woman-kind. Men of the cloth as well as "men of the pen" have this mythology as their background for living high on their horses. They lament that women were not created as strong as men, yet they blame the women for the moral shortcomings associated with their supposedly inherent frailty. This is almost a convention of Renaissance literature, a "trope" if you will. It is even present in our much more forward-thinking buddy Shakespeare.

So what is particular and especially slimy about Milton's brand of woman-blame? That's what I want to know first, then I'll decide if there's enough for a paper there. So I may have to look for a couple other texts to tease out a non-biblical, less formulaic treatment to back up any claims I might want to make.

I plan to check out some feminist criticism (of course) and perhaps some of the related critical applications i.e. New Historicism, Marxism. I'd also like to see if any of Milton's contemporaries left comments on his work. If I go the woman-blame-as-trope route, I may just spend a lot of time with the Early Modern Literature journals, with which I am friendly and familiar.

Now to copy and paste this conversational brainstorm into Word, and turn it in as a "proposal." I'm glad I'm a creative writer on top of being an academic. My brain-dumps often make perfectly acceptable assignments because of their entertainment value. Having awesome professors who like to be entertained helps too.

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